CALVIN KLEIN HAS a long and lucrative history of disrupting the news cycle with its seasonal campaigns, by tapping the hottest and most relevant people of the moment and photographing them in nothing but the brand’s iconic basics. But its new spring 2024 campaign is primed to make the culture horny in ways we haven’t seen since Mark Wahlberg stripped down for the American fashion institution in 1992. And that’s because it stars Jeremy Allen White and his phenomenal set of abs, wearing a medley of Calvin Klein underwear, tank tops and jeans.
Since appearing as the emotionally guarded and mildly tortured chef Carmen ‘Carmy’ Berzatto in Hulu’s award-winning TV series The Bear, Jeremy Allen White has gone from relative obscurity (unless you watched Shameless, the dark comedy he spent 11 seasons on) to verified heartthrob, thanks to his perfectly tousled hair, chiseled guns and short king status (he’s 5ft 7). Carmy’s emotionally damaged persona and ability to make a mean sandwich also contribute to his status as the ultimate eligible bachelor.
White’s first ever Calvin Klein campaign, which was photographed by renowned fashion photographer Mert Alas in the actor’s hometown of New York City, is set to be a defining moment. Yet for someone who likes to keep a relatively low profile, we sincerely hope he’s prepared for the online pandemonium this set of images is about to unleash. But it’s not the only big project White has coming out this month—nor is it the only production that will see him flex his biceps and strip down to his jocks for a very large audience. The Iron Claw premieres in Australia on January 18, and White’s portrayal of Kerry Von Erich, who was part of the infamous Von Erich wrestling family, is rumoured to be next-level good.
Recently, we got the lowdown on all things The Iron Claw, White’s foray into the Calvin Klein universe and why 2024 means another shot—and a chance for us all to do better.
Esquire: It’s not everyday you get asked to pose for Calvin Klein. How did you react when the brand reached out to you?
Jeremy Allen White: I was surprised, flattered and excited. Their ad campaigns have been so consistently cool and elegant. It felt like pressure, but happy to be invited.
Calvin Klein makes some of the best basics, from underwear to white tank tops and jeans. What do you like about the brand’s style of minimalism?
Simplicity is key in my style. I try not to push it. I try to figure out what works for me and stick with it. Calvin Klein has beautiful, timeless pieces. Their tees, tanks and underwear [were] a serious part of my rotation long before they reached out to me to be a part of this campaign.
You underwent a major physical transformation for The Iron Claw. What was the hardest thing about gaining 9kg for the role?
First, I think I spoke too soon on my goal weight for the film; I probably put on 15-20 pounds (6.8-9kg)—15 before filming and maybe another 5 during. What was toughest for me was the diet. The training is tough too, but I enjoy that kind of stuff. I didn’t have a lot of knowledge about this kind of thing, so I was just eating every couple hours, training every day or twice a day.
Having played Kerry Von Erich and immersed yourself in the world of competitive wrestling, what do you respect the most about being a professional wrestler?
The showmanship. The performance aspect outside of the athleticism and combat. There’s real storytelling going on, and they stay in character, they keep up with personas and are able to be fluid and improvise with everything. It’s very impressive.
Speaking of storytelling, what do you love most about acting?
Acting allows me to be present. When I was a kid I was really all over the place, could never focus, could never stay still. When I found acting, I found some peace. I still love it for that reason. It’s all meditative for me, there’s some escapism I think I enjoy as well.
You returned home to New York City to shoot Calvin Klein’s spring 2024 campaign. Having lived in LA for a little while now, what do you miss most about New York?
The people. Co-existing with so many people and all sorts of different people. The street and the train are the best place for people watching. In New York you can get swept up by the day, leave your spot in the morning and get kind of lost. I miss that.
What are you most looking forward to in 2024?
2024, I get another shot. Always grateful for another chance. Let’s all try to do better.